A million dollar mouse: In Western countries, songs about mice are most probably for children's imaginations, rather than an adoring dedication to someone's sweetheart. However as with many things in China, the world is turned upside down. Here, is where a mouse eating rice can have a symbolic and romantic connotation to a man's consuming love for a member of the opposite sex. If you happen to have been in China over the past six months, you could not help but have heard the biggest hit single, so far, this century. It is known as 'Lao Shu Ai Da Mi' or 'Mouse Loves Rice' (and lesser known as 'Mice Love Rice' and 'A Mouse is Loved the Rice'). It is an incredibly sweet melody, perhaps even in the category of 'beautiful'. The song also has a recent history that has a life of its own, consisting of the betrayal to a friend by its original owner and a mystery of who actually performs the version preferred by the millions of people who have downloaded the tune onto their mp3 players.
Wuhan singer, Yang Chen Gang first wrote the song in the year 2000. At least, this is what everyone seems to agree on at the moment. In any case, the song now features on his 2005 album, pictured above. It is said that the song remained unknown until a 'friend' of Gang's uploaded a version of it in November 2004. There is no information as to who made this recording and what date it was recorded. A report in Phenomena/Beijing Today (April 15, 2005) said that by November 5ft, 2004, a Chinese search engine was receiving over 200.000 clicks each day by people looking for the song. By October 2005, several music download sites got together and estimated that the song had been downloaded at least 200 million times since its internet release!
By this stage, the massive attention had earned 26 year old Gang the disparaging nickname of 'the internet singer'. However, the success of the song had lead him to an official recording contract (on November 25th, 2004) with Guangzhou based 'Fei Le Records' for 5,000,000 yuan. Astonishingly, the Phenomena article quoted above, goes on to state:
"At the same time, Yang Cheng is fighting for the copyright of Mice love Rice with three previous owners of the song. Actually, Yang had sold the song to them but had since wanted it back. In the end, Fei Le Records paid 400,000 yuan to the last permanent owner to make its ownership legal".
However, a couple of quick MP3 internet downloads accredited as being Gang (there are two), reveal a voice that does not sound like him at all. At least not the Gang on the official Gang album! Further, the versions that can be heard piping out from most Chinese CD shops, also accredited as being Gang, do not sound like the 'official album Gang' either! These CD shop 'in-store-play' versions are usually sourced from 'various artist', 'compilation', 'hit' type albums released by other record companies. Is this a mysterious 'stand-in'? Does Gang have the ability to change his voice? Or has Gang's voice changed that much since the first version was recorded? Contact was made with Gang's record company, but no reply was forthcoming. Therefore, let us look more closely and try to figure out what is happening.
Both the internet MP3s run for exactly 4:35secs. The first and most preferable out of these has a rather 'rounded flow' and is a 4.27meg file size. This version is now very hard to find and sounded as if it had been badly compressed and decompressed, MP3 style! The other version (at 4.20meg) although very similar, has more of a 'springy chorus' and 'rhythmic' sound. This version is still widely available. After some more research it was found that the internet 'rounded flow' version which everybody likes, is the one featured as the soundtrack to the Mouse Loves Rice VCD (Video CD), accredited as Gang... So it SEEMS to be Gang 'officially'!
But what about 'unofficially'? As previously outlined, the version featured on Gang's album sounds like a totally different singer; it sounds 'whiney' and lacks quality instrumentation. This runs for 4:58secs.
There is a remixed/disco version featuring Gang's voice (it is typical techno that rips the heart right out of the song) and a duet version with Xiang Xiang (more on her in a moment). The Gang voice on both the techno and duet versions, matches the voice on the official Gang album release, although more up-tempo, being disco, of course. But, again, this does not sound like the voice heard on the vast majority of internet downloads, being the 'rounded flow' rip from the 'Gang' accredited VCD or the other 'springy chorus' version!!! Again: Can Gang really change his voice so much?
Despite the songs huge availability on P2P (free) internet file sharing networks, it seems some companies still think there is money to be made by actually trying to sell it over the internet, as the following record company news-release reveals:
- the leading distributor and marketer of independent music in the world, today announced the exclusive western launch of China's Number 1 paid download, Mouse Loves Rice," together with thousands of other tracks from 20 of China's biggest labels on the iTunes Music Store. This unprecedented infusion of Chinese music into the American digital music landscape will be accompanied by a major merchandising campaign, orchestrated by The Orchard, to showcase China's hottest music to US audiences.
In simple English, Orchard is a company that markets (so called) 'world music' to a Western (especially US) audience. They discovered Mouse Loves Rice and want to sell it over the Apple iTunes network, six months after fans already have six versions of the song on their mp3 player. Good luck to them!
The song has now been recorded by numerous others, in a very short period of time. In China, these are known as 'mouth-water' songs, but perhaps a better (although longer) translation in English would be 'artists licking the drawling saliva from the bottom of the mouth of another' (Yuck...) In other words, getting some profit from the success of another singer. The most well known alternative version (known more professionally in English as a 'cover') comes from Xiang Xiang. Actually, she has two - one in Mandarin and the other in English. The Mandarin version by Xiang Xiang is especially cute, with its time-delayed backing chorus performed by Chinese children (who sound like a lot of little mice!) In fact, most versions of this song feature backing vocals from young children or young females.
Another couple of renditions have come from the Hong Kong 'Twins', unknown to the outside world, but considered 'Idols' by many Chinese. The twins have recorded a Mandarin and Cantonese version of the song. The backing music produced for the Twins is somewhat different again, featuring at one point a strange 1960's tinge. After the many Mandarin versions, the Cantonese can give any listener a fright, with its long vowel sounds like 'ow', 'low', 'wow' (remember diction lessons? - 'how brown was my cow'!) Still, diversity is to be treasured - and there is plenty more to follow...
Liao Wei Li, which deserves a lot more attention. Whereas the Twins get attention because of their existing celebrity status, the version by Liao Wei Li deserves attention because of its simple quality and heartfelt rendering. Unfortunately, it appears Li is up against some other serious 'singer-celebrities' from the likes of Wang Qi Wang (from Hong Kong), the actor Liu De Hua (from Hong Kong again!) and Liu Gang. Let's not forget Korea, where Lee Soo Eun has done a version (to the exact same tempo as Xiang Xiang, but at one point with more of a stereotypical, but nice Oriental backing) ... Finally (for the moment anyway), let us take a little trip to Japan, where 10 year old girl and popular actress Car Len has (you guessed it) also recorded a version. However, the Japanese have changed the song, taking the concept of sugary lyrics to a new dimension!
"Do you like me? Although I'd like to hear your answer, I just can't get myself to ask... I just knew that it will be difficult to discover your feelings. I'm always looking at you from afar. So it will be impossible for you to like me. Even if we are all going home together, I will walk by myself... a little behind you. Why can't I find the courage to confess to you? This is laughable. I love you"...
We can only imagine that squealing Japanese girl's voice, as she attempts to put feeling into that bag of sugary lyrics from some JPOP recording studio in Tokyo...
At this stage, other renditions are known to have been recorded in English by Daniel Choi, in Cantonese by Malaysian performer Ah Niu, a popular Singapore version by Guo Mei Mei (aka Jocie), a Cambodian version by Chhet Sovan Panha, a female version in Thai - and a male version in the Hockian dialect. Quite simply, the song has slowly made its way across all of Asia like some kind of unstoppable typhoon! A Vietnamese version is believed to have just been recorded!
THE MOVIE: Oh yes... It does get better, or worse, depending how much you love or hate the song. There is a movie starring Chinese actors Dong Yong, Yang Xi, Ge Cun Zhuang and Ho Mei Tin.
In summary (some personal opinion here), after listening to the versions by Yang Chen Gang (the 'rounded flow' version, if it really is Gang!), Xiang Xiang, Liao Wei Li and even the Twins, all the others sound quite terrible.
Finally (should we ever say, 'finally'?), just to confuse us, in 2006 some Chinese sites have started accrediting 'the original internet version' of the song to somebody called 'Wong Kai Man'. Part of what makes this confusing is that Mandarin speakers (from mainland China) often have Cantonese versions of their names and vice versa with Cantonese speakers, meaning we will probably never really get to the bottom of this mouse business.
Ever wondered why in China, mice love rice and not cheese? This question awaits another article...
(Found many places on the internet...)
When one day I hear your voice
I have some special feeling
Let me always think, I don't wanna forget you.
I remember every day,
You are always on my mind.
Even though I just can't think about you...
If one day in the future,
this love will become true.
I will never change my mind and will love you forever.
I don't care how fool it is,
I will let my dream come true.
I will tell you something I wanna let you know, I let you know...
I love you, loving you, as the mouse loves the rice.
Even if every day has a storm, I will always by your side.
I miss you, missing you
I don't care how hard it is,
I just want you to be happy;
Everything, I do it for you